The Sony Open provides similar great views like last week at Kapalua, but without as strong of a field. This week is the first full field tournament of the 2017 calendar and often provides an introduction to the new faces on the PGA Tour.
Waialae is very different layout than Kapalua last week. This week’s track is more old-school and traditional. Last week’s wide open fairways and long par-4’s and par-5’s are replaced by a tighter course at a par-70 which places more of a premium on accuracy as opposed to length.
The signature hole is the par-5 18th. Although the yardage on the card is not intimidating, this is one of the trickiest par-5’s on the PGA Tour. The tee shot is a sharp dogleg left and with modern drivers, pros simply cannot hook the ball enough to keep the ball in the fairway, so many try and take it over the trees on the left. Even with that strategy, however, they often hit it through the fairway. Because length is of little concern, it always amazes me that players don’t take 3-wood of that tee more often. The angle of the tee shot is similar to that of the 13th at Augusta.
Most Memorable Moment
I’m gonna cheat and put two moments in this section. The first is from the 1983 Sony Open. Jack Renner had a one-shot lead in the clubhouse over Isao Aoki with Aoki playing the 18th. Aoki then holed out for eagle to win the tournament.
The second moment is not necessarily for a spectacular shot, but for the meaning of the victory. Paul Azinger was diagnosed with cancer in 1994 and had a very public battle with the disease. Azinger recovered and resumed a full tour schedule and in 2000, he won the Sony Open for his first victory after beating the disease.
Notable memorable moment came two years ago when Robert Allenby claimed to have been kidnapped from a bar, beat up, and left on the side of the road. However, it turns out just got blackout drunk at a bar and passed out drunk on the sidewalk as he was walking home.
Last Year’s Event
Relative unknown Fabian Gomez put together an incredible 62 in the final round to tie Brandt Snedeker and force a playoff. After both players parred the first playoff hole, Gomez birdied the second playoff hole and earned his first PGA Tour victory.
Paul Casey – As much as I don’t like Casey, he was one of the hottest players in the world at the end of last season and the European squad felt his absence on the Ryder Cup team. Casey has a low ball flight that will benefit him in the windy conditions and he has also found some consistency on greens.
Story about Casey – I went to the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage and anyone who remembers that tournament knows how much it rained and how many delays there were. Because of that and because of the abundance of alcohol, the Long Islanders were in prime form.
So my father and I are watching the grouping of Casey, Geoff Ogilvy, and Jim Furyk in the second round. It was on the 11th hole Ogilvy and Furyk were playing relatively well, but Casey was well over par and had no chance to make the cut. As the weather began to deteriorate again, Casey asks for a ruling and it takes forever for an official to get to his position. Everyone who was watching was frustrated seeing as though he wasn’t going to make the cut anyway. As the wait continued a fan finally yelled out “Hey Casey! You want a ruling? Ruling is you suck!” Casey has Popeye and could have easily killed that heckler, but it was one of the funniest things I have ever seen on a golf course.
Jimmy Walker – Walker got off to a hot start last week before falling off a bit on the weekend. Walker has always played well this time of year with five of his six career victories coming on the west coast swing. Walker won back-to-back Sony Opens in 2014 and 2015 and the Texas native has a game built for success in the wind.